The News Today

Originally uploaded by fgt.

I woke up this morning to news of the London bombings on NPR, as, I imagine, did much of the west coast. I’m devastated by this news, not least because of how much I love that city, but primarily, at the moment, because of the number of people I care about who are through there all the time. GZombie is elsewhere in England right now, thankfully, and meg is back home, and R., who was there for six months last year, is of course currently in DC. My niece, on tour with a school group, was slated to arrive in London today, but her group is being kept outside the city instead. My friend C., who lives in London, I’ve emailed, but have for all the obvious reasons not yet heard from.

I got online and went looking for information about what’s happening there, and of course the New York Times and CNN are heavily reporting on the attacks, but their reports, as always, feel like they’re leaving something out. Perhaps the actual experiences of those present.

This image, though, found on flickr, conveys something through all its multiple mediations (image taken with someone’s mobile phone; broadcast over television; photographed on the tube; posted on the internet) that the press can’t capture. A member of a listserv I’m on posted a few minutes ago that

BBC has created an online environment where people who are “blocked” in the areas of explosions are sending hundreds of e-mails, pictures, but also mms, sms and calls to tell what’s going on – and ask what’s going on – I was told by a friend who works at BBC. I am reading on the Internet those stories from central London…

I’m not sure what to say about this yet; it feels wrong to begin theorizing this soon. But there’s something important in these multiple, mobile modes of communication and broadcast, something that seems to me to relate to television and other broadcast modes of the mainstream media in much the same way that blogging does — a vast diffusion, a popularization, an emergence… And there’s a parallel I want to draw between this kind of guerrilla activity and that of terrorists — both attempting to wrest power from traditional structures — but with the obvious dichotomies of purpose and effect.

My thoughts go out to all those in London, and in the rest of the world as well. Here’s hoping that someday, somehow, the diffused, popular modes of communications we see coming into being might actually bear changes for our social structures — and for our safety — as well.

3 thoughts on “The News Today

  1. its more than a little unnerving for me, having just been there less than a month ago and having gone through Edgware Road and Kings Cross (fantastic picture of me at the fake sign they have up for platform 9 3/4s, incidently) innumerable times. Im most worried about Emily Heddleson, dont know if you know her, but shes been in london for a couple months with plans to stay 6 months to a year. Im hoping that if anything happened the school would find out and let us know.

  2. Hi, thanks for your kind words about my town (London).

    Just wanted to comment on the idea that mobile phone users and bloggers are somehow attempting to wrest control from the traditional media. This may be splitting hairs, but it seems to me that there is no “struggle” or wrestling match occurring. Blogging is happening, tiny still and video cameras are just there and being used. There’s no permission required, no issue of consensus being sought, no period of experiment or adjustment, it’s just happening and there’s precious little anyone can do to stop it. The media can debate it, but it carries on regardless, and the media will just have to adpat and accommodate it. They like to act as if somehow the jury is out on these technologies, as if their benefits need to assessed, weighed and approved or rejected. But the reality is that my 11-year old niece doesn’t distinguish between IM or SMS or Web sites (personal or otherwise) or mobile telephony, or any other digital medium. There’s no “debate”, it’s all the same to her and it’s all the same to her friends. Neither does she distinguish much between a 1 megapixel cameraphone user and a guy from the press-corps with three expensive digital SLRs around his neck. In her world there’s no discussion of the merits or benefits, it’s just the backdrop to her life. Any attempt to cast this as a struggle between old and new is, IMHO, doomed, as the “battle” has been, and is, won virtually every time by the new technologies.

  3. Very good points, of course, and ones that I don’t at all disagree with. The language of struggle is one I usually try to avoid w/r/t new technologies (and you think I’d know better, having just finished a book about the misuses of exactly that kind of language in writing about the relationship between the novel and television). Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that, rather than “wresting” power from traditional media structures, these relatively new technologies allow communicators simply to evade those power structures altogether. (Witness today’s post on academic anxieties about blogging.) Where there is the impression of “wresting” or struggling or any kind of combat among media, it’s from the perspective of the older forms — and it’s important to hear their insistence on these notions of combat for what they are. The traditional media don’t simply debate the merits of these technologies, but repeatedly speak anxiously about them, about the effects they’re having on the kids today, or about the absence of journalistic standards they promote, or whathaveyou. These anxieties are always about their own obsolescence — if any kid with a phone camera and a website can broadcast live from the scene of some happening or other, does anyone really need television anymore?

    I could go on. As I said, I’ve got a whole book about this stuff. But yes, I totally agree with you, no question, is the main point.

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